5 Important but Simple Ways of Practicing Self-Care Following a Crisis

I’ve thought a lot about what I want to say this week. It seems like there are endless topics I could cover, but I’m not quite sure I’m ready to delve into those in the depth that they need. I realize there are probably dozens of others writing about very similar things, and right now very few people are able to read/hear and respond with open minds to anything they don’t already agree with.

According to Terror Management Theory, that’s part of the effects of being forcibly reminded of how fragile life is: we all cling to our worldviews all the more tenaciously because they give us a sense of order and meaning.

I get that. I see that happening. And I’m choosing to wait patiently for people (myself included) to return to a more open-minded place before asking anyone to engage in much discussion with me.

One thing that is relevant right now but isn’t being talked about nearly as much as I would like is self-care.

Whether it’s a national tragedy like the shooting in Orlando or your own personal crisis (or a combination of both as it is for many).

Whether you’re on the front lines as a first responder, among the wounded or ill, working publicly as an activist or quietly in the background caring for the wounded, weary, and discouraged.

Whether you’re out or closeted; gay or straight.

No matter who you are, self-care is important. It is essential. In fact, it’s so much so that it’s ethically mandated for those who work with crises professionally.

Yet it can be difficult to understand how to take care of yourself when your whole world seems to be falling down around you.

So I created a short list (distilled from what I was trained to do for myself) of some simple but very important things people can do during and following tragedy.

  1. Basics

Your body needs certain things to function well every day: liquids, food, sleep, bathroom breaks, probably showers and brushing teeth. If it’s possible to get those in the normal amount, do so. You function much better when you’re not depriving yourself of basic necessities.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember to drink water or grab lunch when chaos demands your attention, so set alarms or create a system with others to help look out for each other.

Sleep can be an elusive bastard following catastrophe.

Some people’s jobs might require less than ideal hours during times like this.

Others find it difficult to shut down the mind when it’s time to sleep. Our bodies release adrenaline and other hormones during emergencies that are designed to keep us alert—which is good when we need to stay up but can make it difficult to rest even when it’s possible. Those hormones don’t just disappear because the clock says it’s time to go to bed.

Still, get what you can. A lack of sleep impairs the ability to think clearly and make sound judgments. For ways to help your body prepare for sleep during stressful times, the following points will be helpful.

  1. Discharge the energy

Staying awake isn’t the sole purpose of the hormones mentioned above. Alertness is a side effect of the main purpose. Our bodies are designed for fight or flight when faced with threat, but in our modern world, neither of those may be a viable option. That doesn’t stop our bodies for preparing for it, and we have to find something to do with that energy to prevent it from stagnating.

Exercise is a good way to burn through those chemicals. I love running because it is such a literal way of working through the flight urge, but any kind of cardio that you feel drawn to and physically capable of is effective. Play sports if you like competition. Go for a bike ride if you have trouble running.

It’s summer, so swimming can be an excellent form of physical activity with low impact and high yield.

Dancing can have many of the benefits of movement and exercise while also tending to the emotional side of things with the music and expression, not to mention social connection, which can be a very important component to resilience.

The goal of discharging the energy is to do something that tires you out. It’s not the “lose weight” kind of exercise, so don’t worry as much about calorie burn as you do about whether it helps your body feel better.

  1. Ground

Don’t just discharge the energy. Ground it as well. Yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises can help center and calm you.

Breathing can be especially helpful for trying to go to sleep. To still the roaring, circling thoughts, try counting during your breathing to occupy the mind’s focus. Presumably a count of four on the in-breath, holding for a count of seven, and exhaling for a count of eight is like a magic formula for sleep. I can only verify that it’s never failed for me.

In further grounding techniques, look for ways to engage the senses. Grab your emotional first aid box, if you have one. Or create one and get in some creative expression at the same time!

One of my favorite sensory engagements is drinking aromatic herbal tea. The warmth of the liquid feels comforting. The tea is nourishing to my body (and also addresses basic needs). And the aroma of the plants is so pleasant that I end up breathing more deeply as I take in the luxurious scent. My favorite heart-care blend is catnip, lemon balm, and rose petals.

  1. Take Breaks

No one can sustain any amount of strain indefinitely and maintain good functioning, so make sure you take breaks as necessary.

For those literally on the front lines (nurses, emergency workers, police, counselors in the immediate area), breaks might be shorter by demand, but even five minutes to half an hour can help (and let’s face it, first responders who may be reading this probably have been trained in how to balance the demands of the crisis with self-care, so you probably just need a reminder that it’s important. Yes, you can hate me for being that person).

For those who are active on long-term goals rather than short-term emergency response, breaks are necessary both for your own mental health as well as for the sustainability of your cause. There’s a lot of shame and guilt that gets placed on care-takers and activists for taking time for themselves, but as Audre Lorde pointed out, self-care is “self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” No social justice campaign is worth its salt if the activists involved cannot value their own sustained functioning.

So as hard as it can be, turn off the news, close out the social media feeds, and set aside the debates periodically. Balance out your work with a focus on other things in your life. Allow yourself to play, relax, read, watch a fun movie, and have pleasure.

Humor is also an important form of taking an emotional break. Look for ways to laugh. Laughter is one of the most important forms of coping. The more heavy the work, the more you need to laugh. I was once asked at an interview whether I had a dark sense of humor. It was a make-it-or-break-it question for the job because it was so important for the mental health of those doing it to be able to find humor while they were working with tragedy.

Nature is nurturing, helps to calm the mind and lift the mood, and provides a necessary respite from technology. Get out in it. Feel the earth. Commune with plants. Bathe in moving water. If you don’t have access to nature, visualize it or look up a guided meditation online…and then close your eyes or turn away from the screen if you can as you listen to the meditation.

Breaks are not a betrayal of your cause. It’s creating a sustainable model of work. Allowing yourself to have a break will allow your mind to be fresh when you return; breaks are healthy and essential for creative solutions and effective action.

  1. Process your feelings

The range of what people are feeling during crisis runs the whole spectrum: shame, guilt, confusion, fear, anger, helplessness, hopelessness, desperation, numbness.

It’s okay to feel all of that. Your feelings, no matter what they are, are legitimate.


They may not be telling wholly accurate stories right now.

Sometimes it’s possible to take feelings as they come, but during a crisis, you often need to take some extra time to understand them.

It’s a tough task to be with your feelings, validate them, and hear them out while also questioning the story they are telling you. It’s tempting to want to either believe everything they say or push them away entirely.

Usually, feelings make sense, but sometimes you have to get underneath a few protective layers. They might be saying, “This person is your enemy because they don’t agree with you!” when what they really mean is “I’m really scared and confused, and people having a different opinion from me feels threatening because it reminds me of how uncertain everything is right now.”

Give yourself time to really feel the feeling in all its intensity. Maybe write about it in a journal that you can read through later…or talk over your feelings with trusted support, be they friends, family, or counselors.

Big decisions may not be avoidable with intense emotions following a crisis, but if you can’t put decisions off, make them carefully and have feedback. The higher your emotions are running, the higher the likelihood of making a decision that is out of character for you and the more likely you are to regret it later. Intense emotions don’t have to result in bad decisions if you are aware of that possibility and approach them with enough care to avoid obvious pitfalls.

Also allow yourself to experience other emotions like joy, love, and gratitude. They might have their own story—that you shouldn’t feel them because of the crisis or that it’s wrong to experience positive emotions. But that story is about as false as the one that says it’s wrong to engage in self-care. Positive emotions build resiliency and give us the capacity to work through the shadow emotions.

Bonus (You thought there were only five?!)

Remember when I said that people are clinging to their worldviews right now?

One important but often overlooked aspect of post-crisis care is identity affirmation.

You (and everyone else) are unconsciously searching to affirm identity and regain a sense of safety and control following a tragedy anyway (hence the frenzy to defend the “rightness” of a worldview and the extreme sense of threat that might come when someone disagrees with it).

So bring that motivation to the forefront and consciously choose activities that affirm who you are in constructive ways. Create art or music, get together with people in your community, do something you find meaningful to contribute to the world, engage in spirituality, work towards a goal, or…write a blog post. 😉

Creating an Emotional First Aid Box

It’s Easter weekend. Instead of creating an Easter basket with just chocolate, why not consider making a self-care kit that you can use all year?

I want to start off by saying that I did not create this idea. I have tried unsuccessfully to find the source of the idea, but it seems to be a kind of counselor self-care thing that has been floating around for so long that no one knows where it originated.

That being said, an emotional first aid box is such a valuable tool to keep around–whether you’re looking for something to ground you from a trigger, help manage panic attacks, counter the effects of stress, or just bring yourself joy throughout the day.

Emotional first-aid kits can be as simple or as creative as you want them to be. Start out by picking a container.

Since I like to craft, I tend to go for a plain wooden box that I can then decorate; however, if you’re not into that, consider a bag or a jewelry box.

The one pictured here is one I created for a previous job. I used calming ocean colors and a seashell to remind me of the treasures that come from adversity and the beauty of “going deep” with emotional work.

Once you have the container you want to use, you can choose to fill it with items.


In the original way I heard the emotional first-aid box explained, it was recommended that the box contain at least two things for every sense that is soothing or grounding. Hence, I started off putting in things like tea and chocolate, bells, worry stones, and pictures I liked.


However, as my box has evolved more to fit my personality, I found myself seeking to add symbols as well as sensations—including something to remind me of spiritual truths that were important to me or quotes from books that were meaningful.

I find that the senses are great for basic grounding when you feel like  you’re about to jump out of your skin but the items with symbolic or sentimental meaning are better for the long haul. They were the things that I turned to when I felt burnt out and needed a reminder of what I was trying to accomplish in life. They kept my fire and passion burning.


More recently with my internship, I’ve found myself adding items to the box that are more literally self-nourishing. Things like granola bars, aspirin, Arnica cream, or lip balm.

A rice pillow has become my favorite item lately. It’s easy to sew if you have a sewing machine…or even simpler is just taking a sock and filling it partially with rice. Throw in some lavender and tie it off—voila! There is probably nothing better than laying a warm rice pillow on your eyes or neck for fifteen minutes.


Although toys can be a sense item or a symbolic item that could be added in, I mention them separately because so many adults deny themselves the right to play with toys. Toys are fucking amazing, and it is a crying shame that we as a society think that people should stop playing with them after a certain age. When I’m telling someone about the self-care box, I practically order them to include toys.

Make it what you want

The best thing about this kit is that there is no end to the personalization of it. Make it what you want and what you need!

P.S. If anyone knows where this idea originated, please let me know because I am super interested in it!

Radical Self-Care is Totally Zen

“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.” – Zen Proverb

In my quest for radical self-care, this has become my proverb, though admittedly I’m not following it literally.

The proverb was confusing to me before this semester. I was focused on the time aspect and the ordering tone. Both made me curl my lip.

But I think now I’m starting to understand the wisdom underneath the less than perfect language. If I could rephrase it to the way that I live it out, the proverb would say:

“Do something self-nurturing for yourself every day—unless you’re too busy; then do two things self-nurturing for yourself every day.”

Once upon a time, I would have thought that self-care was the first thing that should go when I became swamped. I still feel the temptation to ditch it all the time right now. Sometimes I add up the hours that I’m supposed to be putting into school, work, internship, and homework (never mind anything else), and I don’t know how those hours are supposed to fit into my hamster-wheel week.

But I have taken that proverb to heart. When I start to feel that pull to neglect myself in order to fit “all the things” into my life, I look for ways to increase my self-care instead. It’s a sign to me that I’ve become overwhelmed enough to forget my priorities.

The proverb used to feel a little shaming and blaming to me, like the speaker was assuming that busy people obviously aren’t “efficient” enough or must be “lazy.”

That was my cult mind though. That was the memory of the way that the cult would drive you to the brink of exhaustion, then blame you for being tired.

I don’t doubt that some have used that concept in that way. Meditation has been hijacked by cults for abusive purposes. Self-care has been used as a means of oppression and victim-blaming.

What I was missing was the way that it could be used against the cult thinking. When I feel too busy for self-care, choosing to increase my self-care anyway isn’t meant to add to my workload or my sense of guilt. Rather, it’s to make me re-evaluate what I think needs to get done–to prioritize consciously.

If I’m too busy for self-care and I don’t take that conscious step, something is already being let go—my well-being.

But my proverb reminds me that the frazzled feeling is a sign to step back rather than do more. Essentially what the proverb is saying to me is: If forced to choose, let something else go.

Join the Radical Self-Care Revolution

Radical self-care is my thing right now. I’m on a mission to become a self-care superheroine.

I’m not talking about the kind of self-care that your boss tells you to do when you’re overworked and stressed out because of all the demands he/she has placed on you. Nor am I talking about the kind of self-care that health care workers advocate when they lack the time or empathy to try to understand what you’re experiencing but also don’t want to come across as a callous robot. Nor is it the typical self-care that you might hear people talking about when they grant a luxurious or pampering experience to themselves once or twice a year.

Radical self-care might sometimes involve taking a bath, sipping some tea, taking a day off, or getting a massage…but it’s not primarily about making myself “feel better” or rejuvenating my energy just before charging back into the fray of life.

It’s about a owning myself, my needs, and my responsibility for those needs. Radical self-care is about developing a deep intuition about what’s going on “inside” and a commitment to caring for myself even when it doesn’t feel good…or even look good to others.

(For all the hype that our society has around self-care, it’s often shocking to me how much others don’t really want us to take care of ourselves when it means setting aside obligations, saying no to demands, or holding a firm boundary.)

As I head into my second year of graduate school, with internship, classes, and a couple side jobs, I know there will come a day when I’m faced with the choice to finish a project or get sleep, to hole up to do an obscene amount of reading or spend time with loved ones, to call in sick or muscle through the day with a sore throat and upset stomach.

And I’m going to have to be prepared to make the judgment calls of what I need most. I’m going to have to be ready to piss people off when meeting that “most” need conflicts with something someone else wants or expects.

I am my home base—my own foundation. Everything I do stems from the core of me. I need to be radical about self-care because I recognize that if things aren’t good in my foundation, they can’t be good elsewhere in life. The only way I can do anything worthwhile long-term for anyone else is if I am providing myself the space and permission to meet my own needs.

Burnout shouldn’t be an expected part of life; it should be an indication of a lack of taking care of oneself. Unfortunately we live in a society where many professional and academic fields recognize that self-care is essential but treat burnout as inevitable. They’re set up so that it’s impossible to take care of oneself sufficiently enough to avoid burnout. Self-care becomes a tool of oppressing people rather than the tool of nurturing them. It becomes an excuse to avoid looking at the systemic ways that people are treated rather than a form of empowering people to demand to be treated with dignity and concern for their well-being.

Which makes radical self-care a revolutionary act. By committing to taking care of my needs (and by holding my boundaries), no matter what, I am refusing to participate in that paradigm. Right now, the ability to be radical about self-care is somewhat of a privileged position, but the more people commit to self-care, the more people will be able to consider committing. This is a social justice mission, but it’s one that fundamentally has to start with concern for and commitment to…yourself.

Four Ways to Legit Pamper Your Vagina

Every year, as some are aware, I have a month dedicated to honoring the female body and celebrating the vagina. It usually involves a party, reading, and lots and lots of crafting, followed by a post (like this one) passing on something I created, learned, or did in the hopes that more women will get inspired to celebrate their beautiful bodies.

This past year, I’ve also been undergoing physical therapy to treat damaged muscles in my pelvic floor. I discovered that physical therapy involved a lot of self-care in order for it to be effective. I also discovered that many of the books I’ve read don’t really go into vaginal self-care in depth, and it reminds me that, even with some fantastic sex/body-positive books for women, we still have a long way to go in disseminating all the information a vagina-possessing person could use.

So today, I’m going to share some of my favorite yoni luxuries.

1. Massage!

I love massages. If I could afford it, I would be getting a professional massage on a weekly basis. But for some reason, I had never thought to try massaging my belly and pelvis. I’m guessing most women haven’t because it’s not exactly the kind of thing you see Cosmo printing on the front cover.

However, there are lots of little muscles in the lower abdomen and around the outside of the vulva that can get tired and sore. The pelvic muscles benefit from a little bit of kneading just as any other muscle (especially around menstruation).

Obviously, it’s easiest if you have a partner who gives good massages and wouldn’t mind offering a non-sexual spa hour to your outer pelvis and abdomen; however, if you don’t have the partner or the willingness from the partner, there are ways to give the gift of a massage to your own belly. You can even create your own massage oil with coconut oil, olive oil, or sesame seed oil.

2. Yoni Steam (aka, vaginal steam)

Douches are bad for your vag. Let’s just put that out there. The vagina is a brilliantly functioning, self-cleaning machine and DOES NOT need to be washed out. Douching will only knock out of balance the flora of bacteria and yeast that keep that pussy healthy.  (Just look at these wet pussycats to get an idea of how angry your vagina gets when you douche.)

That being said, steams are awesome and super simple. Basically, bring a pan of water to a boil. Remove from heat (and probably turn off your stove), add in some herbs or essential oils. Some of the ones I’ve loved and that are beneficial for the yoni are rosemary, rose, calendula, and lavendar. Then sit over the steam pot, naked at least from the waste down, at a comfortable distance from the heat so that you feel it but aren’t in pain. You can get special chairs with holes in them, or you can just improvise in your own way to find a comfortable arrangement. The steam rises and relaxes the muscles, and the essence of the herbs works its magic on the mind and body. If you want to contain the steam for longer, wrap a blanket around your legs.

There’s been a recent surge of interest in yoni steams as a “beauty treatment,” which saddens me because it’s such a luxurious experience of self-indulgence and love on its own that it almost seems sacrilegious to turn it into yet another beauty standard. But it remains one of the “beauty treatments” that actually offers pleasure and health benefits, like a sauna for your lady bits.

3. Baths

This one seems so common-place that I shouldn’t have to put it down, but I do because I was told for years that baths were bad for women only to find out that it’s just the opposite. The first thing my physical therapist assigned to me when I began treatment was to take lots and lots of baths. Heat and water are healing and supporting, and I don’t know why we have developed a fear of their power.

4. Yoga

Add this to the list of health benefits for yoga: makes your vagina happy.

It’s more about the stretching actually, but yoga is my favorite way to get the stretching in. Poses like cobra, the arching cat, happy baby, child’s pose, goddess pose, garland, and basically any pose the stretches the abdominals or relaxes the pelvic floor is great.


So go pamper yourself. Or help your partner/friend/whatever pamper herself. Not everything that happens “down there” has to be sexual or medical. Sometimes it’s just plain sensual. Happy yoni-loving!

Selfishness: The Character Flaw That is Also a Virtue

We live in a society that views selfishness as the ultimate character flaw. Labeling something as “selfish” doesn’t even need an explanation; we just know that it’s horrendous.

We also live in a society that has had to resort to encouraging self-care as a prescriptive thing, ordered by others before being sought out by ourselves, rather than an automatic one.

When I interviewed for grad school, I was asked about my self-care techniques. I’ve since found out that the school’s concern for student well-being wasn’t a formality. Almost every time I’m on the campus, I’m hearing or reading something about the importance of taking care of myself.

I’ve also noticed that even though I want everyone else to take care of themselves (and routinely scold my friends if I think they’re not), I have a backlash of shame at the idea of carving time out for myself. There are a million other things I should or could be doing, and taking even half an hour to do something fun or nurturing feels like a sin…and I’m not even really that busy right now!

Although selfishness isn’t an emotion, per se; I’ve determined that it needs to be the next step on my “negative emotions reclamation” journey. My ability to pay attention to myself and give my body, mind and spirit what they need in the coming years will depend on my ability to be comfortable with seeming selfish from time to time.

And really, if you think about it, why is being selfish such a horrible thing?

That question first crossed my mind a year ago when a friend of mine was called ‘selfish’ for choosing to be child-free. Of course, my initial reaction was to fire back that it was far more selfish to have children for the wrong reasons than to choose to not have children…but then, so what if the decision to be child-free was selfish? What harm did it cause?

I think when we think of selfishness within our society, we automatically get a picture of someone doing something for their own benefit to the detriment of others. Obviously, self-focus that does not care or bother to understand the effect on others is a problem. Too much selfishness, and you have the infamous narcissist, obsessively staring at his/her metaphoric reflection.

Narcissus by Caravaggio

Narcissus by Caravaggio public domain

But should it automatically follow that any amount of self-focus is negative?

In the case of choosing to be child-free, I’d say it’s the best “selfish decision” a person could make. There is no child who will suffer as a result of that choice. No one gets hurt.

And with regard to self-care, I don’t think it’s possible to care for the self without at least a little bit of self-focus and self-concern.

I took a moment to look up “selfish” in the dictionary. Unlike most of my reclaimed emotions, I was surprised to find that there didn’t seem to be a positive or neutral definition that was forgotten at the end of a list. I can’t think of an alternative word that implied a healthy amount of self-focus.

So I’m left with reclaiming selfishness.

I want to learn how to be selfish—meaning, I want to learn how to practice self-care without feeling like I’m doing something wrong, I want to be able to say “no, that doesn’t work for me” without having to provide a convincing altruistic or globally beneficial reason to make my choice seem more palatable, and I want to have the right to love myself as much as I feel I should love others.


Revolutionary Resolutions: Stop Fighting Bad Habits

Ooh, guess what! The New Year is officially two months old! Feels like it’s been longer, doesn’t it? Especially with that damn Mercury Retrograde starting off month two with a bang. In the spirit of Retrograde, which is best spent reviewing old projects, I’ve been cleaning out some of my blog topics. I came across one that I had intended to do in January about fighting bad habits—namely that we shouldn’t.

By the way, how are all those New Year’s Resolutions holding up? Have you kept them? Messed up a few times but gotten back on track? Or have you given up entirely as we enter March?

Don’t worry; I’m not here to chastise you for failing or to try to motivate you to try harder.

I’m here to talk about the purpose of bad habits.

Yep! They have a purpose—a purpose that we each assign to them as we develop them. And I have a radical theory that we actually shouldn’t fight bad habits. Rather in order to truly overcome them, we have to understand what their purpose is in our lives. Like nightmares, they have a message to deliver, and they won’t go away until they deliver it.

I first developed this theory during one of the many times that I was trying to stop cutting. I’d had bad luck since I was a teen in forcing myself not to self-harm. Every time I resisted the urge to self-harm, the urge got stronger. Giving in just made it stronger too.

I know, I know, bad cycle…but I didn’t know how to break it! Part of me, I guess, really didn’t want to break it.

Then one day, someone actually praised my self-harm. Rather than admonishing me, “You have to promise me you’ll never do that again. EVER!”, she said that she was glad that I had done what I needed to survive. She thought my self-harm had been a good thing in my younger years because it had helped me cope with some pretty monstrous circumstances. Now that I knew that it wasn’t the best coping mechanism, I could develop new ones that nurtured me rather than harmed me.

When she said that, I felt pride. I realized that part of the reason that I was having such a hard time stopping my cutting was because, deep down, I didn’t see it as a negative thing. I saw it as a friend who had been there for me during my darkest times, preventing me from killing myself in the only way that I could think of. It was the means I used to keep myself together and grounded enough to function in an incredibly toxic world.

In a way, my bad habit had been my savior.

But I also knew that she was right. It was no longer a coping mechanism that I needed, and it was time to respectfully retire it.

Even if our survival skills have become impediments we would like to let go of because they have ceased to serve us, we can still love ourselves with them. In appreciation of our survival, we can be awed at how our resources brought us through, even when these resources were things like indifference, a wall of rage, a cold heart…We learn to embrace ourselves as humans with faults & problems. ~Beyond Survival by Maureen Brady

Since then, I have taken this approach whenever I need to replace a behavior with something else. Rather than trying to wrestle with the habit and, ultimately, with myself, I have a conversation with the habit. I sit with it in meditation and ask it what it has to teach me. What purpose does it serve? What need does it fulfill? What fears does it assuage? When I understand why I rely on that habit, I can address the needs that underlie it and find other ways of meeting those needs.


Sometimes I even draw a picture of what the habit might look like. I try to represent what it’s trying to do for me and what it is actually doing for me. With the picture above, insecurity makes me want to hold onto other things too tightly, but I end up choking myself instead.

Ultimately, I don’t “quit” my “bad habits.” I make them unnecessary. As I develop new ways of addressing my needs, I don’t need them anymore. They fall out of my life naturally.

That’s not to say there isn’t a struggle, but the struggle becomes informed. I know why I’m struggling, and I can approach the struggle with compassion and self-care. I can befriend myself in my attempts to change rather than alienating myself.

In a world where advertisements are constantly trying to convince us to fight ourselves or erase ourselves in order to be “better,” it’s a revolutionary idea…but then again, isn’t love usually pretty revolutionary?

Perhaps sometimes it’s possible to overcome a habit we don’t like by sheer power of will, but ultimately, I think we damage ourselves when we do because we fail to take into account that our habits are doing something for us…something that our minds and bodies feel they need. Strong-arming our behavior into something else without trying to understand what motivates the behavior creates enmity with ourselves and, ultimately, heightens our chances of relapsing into the same habit or unconsciously replacing it with something equally destructive.

So if you’ve failed at your New Year’s Resolution, I want to congratulate you. This is your opportunity to turn a resolution into a revolution. Radical self-love. Radical self-respect. Radical change. We’re only two months into the year. It’s a perfect time to start a new pattern of resolutions!

On a Scale of 0 to 10, My Pain Is . . .

“Does that hurt?” the doctor asked me, pressing against my swollen foot.

“Yes?” I asked, then added, “No. I don’t know.”

“You’re grimacing.” She moves her hand to a different spot.

“Yeah, I think it hurts.”

Putting my foot down, she makes a note on the computer. “Has the pain worsened since it happened?”

“Maybe. I’m not sure. It comes and goes.”

This was me in the doctor’s office on Thursday as I got my foot checked out after having it hit by a baseball on Tuesday night. Thank goodness she didn’t ask me to rate my pain on a scale of 0-10 because I would have given two answers on two opposite ends.

The truth is, I have no idea how to gauge my pain. When I broke a toe in high school, I walked on it until it healed, wearing four inch heals every Sunday. I never went to the doctor, even though I could clearly see that it was misshapen.

“That’s impossible!” people have told me.

Maybe for someone who grew up in a normal environment—where belts are not considered legitimate whipping tools, where sexual abuse doesn’t lurk around church corners, and where abusive siblings don’t minimize the pain they caused after throwing you across your room by your neck.

Bur for someone who faced the possibility of pain on a daily basis, I’m not sure I could have survived if I hadn’t learned how to ignore it. I became very good at dissociating out of my body, talking myself out of my feelings, and redefining sensations as something else—as something acceptable to my various abusers.

So what happens when I suddenly don’t need the protection of a high pain tolerance?

I have to teach myself to listen to my body again.

Notice I didn’t say teach myself to feel pain again. My body, on some levels, has no problem feeling pain. It registers in my brain just fine. Sometimes it’s from current stimuli; sometimes it’s from past traumas. I feel it, but immediately my cognitive mind works to control its interference. Deep breaths, creative visualization, etc.

Like most things in life, it’s not bad in and of itself. The ability to look past pain is a good tool for pain management.

However, that’s not so good when the pain is there to tell me that something bad happened—like my foot this week, or the shin splints that notified me that I needed to adjust my running a few weeks ago, or the pulled muscle that told me I pushed myself too far in yoga last year.

In high school, I would have ignored all of those unless I simply couldn’t function—and I would have done permanent damage to my body.

I may not feel any more inclined to acknowledge the pain now. I could have muscled my way through this current injury if I were determined. I chose to go to the doctor—not because the pain was more intense than it was the last time I broke a toe, but because this time I’m committed to caring for and loving my body.

Plus I’m surrounded by people, for once, who don’t understand why the hell I wouldn’t go to the doctor if I had a question of injury, so I had lots of encouragement.

Turns out the X-ray didn’t show a fracture.

Immediately my stoic upbringing ran its familiar diatribe.  “You’re such a baby.” “You’re going to get fat.” “You’re so lazy.” “It’s not broken, so why can’t you walk?” “Is the pain really that bad?”

Apparently only broken bones serve as legitimate injuries to this “old me” that I’ve resurrected. It’s hard to make room for weakness and injury when you grew up on the motto “Pain is weakness leaving the body.”

But here’s one thing I realize now that I didn’t realize back when I could bully myself out of listening to my body:

Ignoring the pain doesn’t actually make it go away.

Ignoring the injury doesn’t heal it.

Pain is not weakness leaving the body. It’s weakness entering the body. It’s the signal that my body sends to my brain that something needs attention—something’s wrong. While there may have been times as a child when my mind needed to believe that the pain was unimportant, I’m not there anymore. I’m in a different place—a safe place—where I am responsible for listening and caring for myself, which means using crutches for a few weeks instead of trying to prove my willpower to those ghosts in my head.


Romancing the Self: Rekindling the Love that I Forgot to Kindle

It’s women’s history month! What better way to celebrate than by talking about self-love?

Back when I posted my upcoming topics on Facebook (yes, I’m on there with a wee baby page that desperately needs more likes), I was following a whim. Rather than fret all week about which topic to cover next time, I decided to talk about something that I was currently doing. It seemed like a good idea. It was fun and lighthearted but an important concept, nonetheless.

Plus it was relatively easy . . . or so I thought it would be at the time . . . and I could use an easy topic while I was going through my post-Emilie-Autumn-concert high/minor obsession (okay major obsession).

So I patted myself on the back for thinking of ahead and let myself fall back into following as much of Emilie and her inmates as I could on the Internet. In the process, I stumbled across one of the inmate’s blog post about writing love letters to yourself and, from there, the Contessa’s post about dating yourself.


Talk about synchronicity!

Yes, I suppose this could just be a topic trend right now, so all you logic monsters (ahem, my partner) can just relax. But I’m allowing myself to find a deeper meaning in the repetition because even though the idea of courting myself has floated around in my mind for a little over a year now, I haven’t been practicing it.

I thought I had started the practice last year, when on International Women’s Day, I bought myself my first “gift.”

Not that I’ve never gotten myself something before, but this was the first one that felt like I was getting myself something that I would normally expect another person to give to me—a rose. I was driving by a florist’s shop, already heady with the energy of the full moon and the excitement of celebrating women, when I suddenly decided that I wanted a rose for that day.

Part of me scoffed at the idea. You can’t buy yourself flowers! It’s like making yourself a birthday cake or giving yourself a Valentine’s Day gift!

But I really wanted that flower.

So I made a u-turn and went back to the florist. I took my time selecting the flower that I wanted, thinking about how each shape and color made me feel, until I felt certain that a pale lavender rose seemed to fit the occasion just perfectly.


I was giddy by the time I left the shop. I don’t even remember what I did to celebrate the rest of the day even though it was an all-day celebration. All I remember is buying myself that rose and feeling so fucking special because of it!

And I decided that this whole romance thing would need to be part of my life—I was finally to the place where I treasured myself enough to want to do it!


Then a year passed before I thought about romancing myself again.

Sure, I had alone time and self-care times, even times of honoring the scared feminine within me (remember the yoni party!).

But it wasn’t a romantic encounter in any way.

Then last Friday, I was stressed. My partner and I had been almost too busy to even say hi to each other, and I was lonely. I knew I needed to unwind, and I was disappointed over every new occasion that seemed to get in the way of that.

Then it occurred to me: Take yourself on a date! You were supposed to be doing that anyway!

At first it felt kind of pathetic, planning a romantic evening when I had nothing else to do—almost as if I were crying for attention. But it wasn’t about that at all. I even got offers from friends that day to go out, but I turned them down because I actually wanted to have this evening with myself.

The evening really couldn’t have been more cozy. I cooked myself a gourmet meal, broke open an expensive bottle of wine, lit some candles and incense, dimmed the overhead lights, and picked out a favorite movie. The food was delicious, but I think eating it would have been special even if it tasted like crap. There was something about knowing that I was doing all of this for me that made it all feel magical (especially when you consider that I rarely even cook if I’m not expecting anyone else to eat with me). The night continued with my homemade spa–even more candles and a vanilla bath. There was no time limit, no expectations, just me and me doing whatever we wanted.

Okay, so enough about my night. Anymore from here will either get inappropriately awkward or boring (if it’s not boring already). The point is that I reminded myself of how precious it is to woo myself. Of course I like it when someone else does it to me, but I’d forgotten how special I could make myself feel. And in a way, this whole self-date thing is almost more important than dates with my partner because it is the foundation of my being able to appreciate and accept my partner’s love. Loving myself enough to say, “You deserve this. I want to give it to you,” adds a deeper dimension to my relationship with my partner. There’s very little from the Bible that I hold onto in my current beliefs, but the whole “love your neighbor as yourself” bit is still one of my favorite mottos because it reminds me that all love stems from self-love.

"I will never leave you nor forsake you." I always get a little bit ecstatic when I find a way of blasphemously turning a phrase once associated with God onto myself somehow.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
I always get a little bit ecstatic when I find a way of blasphemously turning a phrase once associated with God onto myself.

I’m a complex being. I’ve learned that sometimes I need to be mothered, sometimes I need to be coached/pushed, and—sometimes, I just need to be seduced by myself.

So this March, like last March, I’m proposing a courtship to myself, and this time, I don’t intend on letting myself down. I think I might even work on starting to write myself a love letter, like Veronica instructs. But even if I can’t bring myself to do that right away, I can plan in a date night with myself from time to time to keep the romance alive. Love takes work, and that includes self-love.